Kent Hackman Unearths Historical Nuggets for Andover

By Chuck Will

In reference to Kent Hackman’s letter to The Beacon entitled “Uriah and Mary N. Chase Research Project Completed,” I must point out that Kent is being characteristically modest regarding his work. As a proofreader for this project, I can attest that his research has unearthed some historical gold nuggets for the people of Andover. 

In the essay entitled “Mary Nettie Chase (1863-1959), Distinguished Andover Resident,” we learn that 36-year-old Mary Chase was already an experienced teacher and an accomplished leader of the Universal Suffrage Movement prior to moving to Andover to teach English and Science at Proctor Academy in 1899. During her first year here, she accepted the position of President of the New Hampshire Suffrage Association, thereby making Andover the epicenter of the women’s right-to-vote movement in this state. 

A resident of Andover for four decades, Mary Chase traveled nationally as a compelling speaker and advocate for both suffrage and world peace, and she hosted renowned leaders and dignitaries at her home here. Equally intriguing is newfound evidence suggesting that Chase chose Proctor Academy and the town of Andover for her home because of this community’s reputation for enlightened social and spiritual values. 

Connected to Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, by railroad, Andover and its magnificent Proctor House Hotel attracted cosmopolitan intellectuals and Harvard-affiliated vacationers throughout the 1870s. It is likely many shared Mr. Proctor’s liberal Unitarian perspectives, as Harvard College was the seat of Unitarian thought in America. 

When, in 1879, the Unitarian Association in Boston sought to open a school “free of religious orthodoxy,” John Proctor paid off the debts of the school in Andover that subsequently re-opened in 1881 bearing his name. For almost 80 years, Proctor Academy was formally affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and a magnet for people who practiced the Unitarian tenet of honoring and respecting the beliefs of every individual. 

Kent Hackmann documents that upon her arrival in Andover in 1899, Mary Chase — raised a Free Will Baptist — announced she was now Unitarian. Mary Chase lived a life dedicated to advancing humankind, and she found the community of her choice here in Andover, New Hampshire. Available at our local libraries, Kent’s work deserves our attention. Kent Hackmann deserves our gratitude.